Thanks to unexpected attention from digg.com, my brief news post on accusations of discrimination in World of Warcraft has drawn thousands of visitors to this site. Had I known that would happen, I would have spent more time on the post! I don’t normally bother to write about the same subject twice in one week, but this situation seems to merit some followup.
First: many visitors appear to have assumed that I was accusing all language-selective WoW players of racism. I would never make such a blanket accusation, news-based or otherwise. That would be as foolish as, oh… assuming that all foreign players are gold farmers. To anyone who felt unfairly accused, my apologies.
Second: It’s worth quickly glancing at the comments on my post, and on the digg entry leading to it. You can draw your own conclusions about them.
Third: My thoughts on encouraging diversity were idle speculation… intended to start a dialogue, not dictate hard and fast changes to MMORPGs. Multiplayer video games have tremendous potential to bring people together, no matter where they live or what they look like. For years, the video game industry has itself trumpeted this as one of the most promising aspects of games; a worthy rebuttal (among many others!) to the accusation that games offer nothing of social value. All the sadder, then, to see several people make comments like (and I’m paraphrasing, here): “foreigners should stick to their OWN servers!”
Fourth: the most common objection to my post was that players have legitimate reason to reject poor English speakers, since they might not understand directions, might ruin the raid, etc. I readily admit (as I did in an earlier comment) that I would not personally accept someone into my group if they spoke almost no English … it would unnecessarily complicate gameplay. But there’s a wide gulf between “perfect, unbroken English” and “almost no” English. I’ve got friends in Europe and South America who may not be able to spell perfectly, but they understand enough to avoid trouble, play their part, and generally contribute to the cause. It doesn’t take fluency to understand the less-than-Shakespearean instructions I generally hear being barked out during any given raid.
There are many ways to address legitimate player fear of potentially bad group members. One possible solution is an in-game reputation / feedback system (ala eBay), which could be used by players to ding other players who behave poorly or dishonerably while in a group. I’ll attempt to describe my idea of a functioning, relatively low-maintenance rep system in a future post.
*Update: there’s an interesting comment on this post that explains why Singaporeans (among other people) legitimately wind up in English-speaking servers, aside from immigration to the US. It’s 2nd from the top in the list.
*2nd Update: strangely, some people seem to be assuming that I “support” gold farming because I’m concerned about the cultural divide. Not that it should require clarification, but these two things are not automatically correlated…